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Employment Rate of College Graduates

March 18, 2014

Many people question the value of a college degree. In recent years, the “sticker prices” for college tuition have soared, and recent graduates have struggled with unemployment due to the rough job market. However, research has shown that bachelor’s degree recipients did not lose nearly as much ground when the recession hit as compared to those who attained a high school diploma or associate’s degree.  The study, released by the Pew Charitable Trusts, examines the effect that the recession made on Americans ages 21 to 24 years old in terms of employment and income. In the graph below, the employment percentage of each group is being measured, and the dates in which they are being measured are defined as such: “Before recession” is 2005-November 2007, “During recession” is December 2007-June 2009 and “After recession” is July 2009-2011.

College Degree Recession Graph

The results of the study show that Americans ages 21 to 24 years old who received bachelor’s degrees had far better outcomes in the job market than those with associate degrees or high school diplomas. Those who had recently received bachelor’s degrees not only had a higher employment rate before the recession, but they also only saw a 4% drop in employment as compared to 7% and 8% to those with associate degrees and high school diplomas.

The study also found that, as many could imagine, the wages of those who were employed in all three groups fell, but those with bachelor’s degrees only saw a 5% drop is wages. Associate degree and high school diploma recipients saw drop of 12% and 15%, respectively.

Another study by the Pew Research Center has found that people ages 25 to 32 years old with bachelor’s degrees have a median annual income of $45,000 and an unemployment rate of 3.8% as compared to those with high school diplomas who have a median annual income of $28,000 and an unemployment rate of 12.2%. The researchers were also able to conclude that college graduates were more likely to be married, less likely to live with their parents and more likely to be satisfied with their jobs.

In short, not only were those with bachelor’s degrees better off in terms of employment and income, but they also weathered the downturn of the economy the best.

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